Curing the body, curing the society : the miracle stories of Gregory of Tours in the service of ascetical socio-moral reform in sixth-century Gaul
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The saints in Gregory of Tours’s miracle stories frequently transfer such values as peacefulness, charity and mercy from theory into public action by their miracles. This exemplary function of the miracles in the Histories has lately been acknowledged in the literature. However the stories in the miracle books, especially the healing miracles, have been neglected in this respect. The main question of the thesis is whether the entire corpus of the miracle stories can be fitted into the perspective of the socio-moral reform found in the sermons of Caesarius of Arles, in the canons of Merovingian Church councils, and in the works of Gregory of Tours himself. The ideal society envisioned by Gregory of Tours and Caesarius of Arles, like the monastic community on which it was expected to model itself, was one that embraced ideal values such as charity, humility and obedience. Considering that the envisioned reform was of an ascetical character, the authors’ ideal values and proposed methods for realizing them are investigated and brought into relation with the miracle stories within the framework of the ascetical stance and practice as found in Late Antique Gaul. It is observed also in the miracle books that saints take an active part in the realization of the ideal values by exemplifying them and by punishing the transgressors. Moreover, they help the bishops in transferring these values into public action and in persuading their flock to preoccupy themselves with their future salvation instead of the present world. Another important result is that the healing miracles in which the patient undertakes some sort of ascetical practice before the cure or vows never to commit sins afterwards can be similarly considered in the context of socio-moral reform.